ROME – Church communicators have an important and serious duty to obey Church teaching and defend the Church’s mission of saving souls and safeguarding truth, said the head of the Vatican’s highest court.
Caution as well as control over content and where it’s distributed are needed because while the field of communications “has great potential for good,” it “also can be turned to the harm of the faithful,” said US Cardinal Raymond L Burke, prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature.
Communicators should be guided and directed by priests to make sure their content is free from doctrinal and theological error, and Catholics should avoid outlets that openly attack Christian morality, he added.
The cardinal was one of dozens of speakers at a biennial seminar for people who work in the field of media and communications for dioceses, religious institutions and other Church organisations.
Sponsored by Rome’s Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, the April 16-18 seminar focused on ways the Church could better portray the essence and vitality of the Christian faith.
Cardinal Burke, who is a canon lawyer, focused his talk on April 18 on the importance of canon law in protecting the integrity of the Church’s mission and its members.
Church communicators, in fact, are taking part in the “priestly office of teaching” and, therefore, “it is key that they, like priests, ground themselves in an ever greater obedience to the truth of Christ” found in the Church’s official teaching, he said.
Canon 823 states pastors have the right and duty “to be watchful so that no harm is done to the faith or morals of the Christian faithful through writings or the use of instruments of social communication.”
Therefore, priests and bishops “should be close to those employing the instruments of social communication for the sake of evangelisation,” not only encouraging them in their task, but “guiding and directing them, lest some form of communication actually lead the faithful into confusion and error regarding the truth,” the cardinal said.
According to Canon 831, Catholics should not be writing for newspapers, magazines or periodicals that openly attack Catholicism or good morals “except for a just and reasonable cause,” he said.
That same norm should be extended to include radio, television and digital forums or sites that regularly contain content that is offensive to the faith or morality, which makes such outlets “not fitting instruments for the church’s essential and fundamental work of communication.” - CNS